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tv   A Jewish Refugee in World War II Japan  CSPAN  March 10, 2019 9:10am-9:57am EDT

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tv. > next on american history tv isaac shapiro reads passages edokko: growing up a stateless foreigner in wartie japan. flights about his family from persecution against jews in communist russia and germany settled in japan here mr. shapiro came of age during world war ii. in the post-war era at age 14 he interpreter for the u.s. military and later emigrated to the united states. the strand bookstore in new york city hosted this 45-minute event. >> good evening, everyone. i am the proud owner of the strand bookstore. for a little bit of history the trand, which is located in greenwich village, which was the repa -- literary
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publishing area and stroupbld authors.d by grandfather by my over the fourth avenue book row. spanned from union square to we.or place just block at its height there were 48 bookstores. in the 91 years since then all shuttered them has leaving strand to be passed down bass, who r, fred died in january, and then to me be kept independent. .onight is a very special night we are so honored to have c-span to celebrateus and isaac shapiro and his
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memoir, edokko: growing up a stateless foreigner in wartie japan. t is a story of perseverance nd chris kelly is going to moderate this. he works with fifth house public will have a discussion, then we will have an mic. then isaac will stick around and sign copies for us. everyone, join me in welco welcoming isaac shapiro and kelly to the strand bookstore. [applause] >> thank you, nancy. you to that historic strand bookstore and to all of you for joining us tonight. as isaac shapiro reads from his memo
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memoir, edokko: growing up a stateless foreigner in wartie japan. he shares stories from his childhood. c-span for to recording this event. an attorneyisaac is arps and is of counsel can them. here is nothing about his legislative today that would prepare you for the story of his childhood. when isaac would tell people he jewish refugee in japan in 1931 and grew up there stateless foreigner during world war ii surviving deadly tokyo with his family terror surprised. when he shoals how he was discovered by the military and them at to work with age 14 as an interpreter and the including inspecting devastation of hiroshima and itnessing the signing of peace
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treaties they were shocked. we would continue discussing how to markponsored to come at age 15 by a marine colonel rom arkansas and his wife and became a u.s. citizen and fought in the korean war and attended ike you have say to write a back. so, he did. sever published of dokko was released nearly 10 years ago. he spoke and it did well. but then he assumed he was done until a few years ago when a woman who works with sea side ng company picked up a copy and contacted him and asked if he would consider aallowing a story here -- allowing her to republish it. fall.e out last tonight he will share some of his favorite sequences and we with us for a ay q&a session.
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his first reading tonight is not n japan but in the russian jewish community in china where his parents lived before moving japan. where his mother returned with young isaac and his brothers separated from his father in the early 1930's. under occupation by the japanese military and it was an lawless time. isaac. toddler i was blissfully unaware of the living in nger of harbin under the japanese occupation. no idea that my mother's ife had been directly threatened in the summer of 193 1933. known as thebecame most internationally sensational
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among the many that were occurring in man khrao -- manchuria on a young basis involving a 24-year-old person named simeon father joseph was a wealthy jewelry store owner and member of the russian jewish community. there after the war during which he fought in the russian cavalry. was not only aer successful jeweler but was also other than of the hotel luxurious establishment there. once again been restored to the original ondition and decorated with memorabilia from the early 20th century when it was built.
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i was there and saw it in 2006. staggering.utely -- i'me involved a young also was the head of a theatrical company that operated theaters and cinemas. he sent his two sons to study in france where they became french citizens. he was also the head of a -- i'm sorry -- young harbin ad returned to fter graduating from the paris conservatory of music. he was among many young men a re courting my mother beautiful 28-year-old woman. she had he fact that four sons. .hey found her attractive nevertheless, late on the night
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1933, simeon and kidnapped just as he was driving her home after an evening out. the it was revealed idnapping and all of them in harbin were russian bandits ired by local japanese police acting out of financial greed. persuade them to drop my mother off at our house absconded with him. how shaken she was from the only imagine an because during the rest of her to discuss any of it with us. >> he would ultimately be his kidnappers and never shared er
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etails they preserved -- discovered a letter after the captivity. he returned to japan and reunited with isaac as father. want to give you a quick explanation of how this russian jewish family came to be in and japan. each parent fled russia in the 1920's. his father as a result of the revolution, his mother as a deadly pogroms that were taking place. where they berlin were classical musicians looking for work. is where n, which hitler had not begun less rise time s quite an unsettled in germany and not the best environment to raise a family, paris then to palestine, then it harbin, back toone to japan and harbin, china. and r became world war,
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apan allied with nazi germany life was changing for the in japan.ow reunited >> with the outbreak of war came foreign eers tion living in japan into categories. llies like germans and aliens and emy ail neutrals like the soviets, swiss swedish, and finally oreigners like us who had no nationality. without alled nationality. the words we had to use when filling out forms in to indicate or citizenship. stateless people didn't all fall into one simple category. e were known alleges the white
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and this had no legal significance whatsoever, it our national origin and also distinguished us from or red russians most inthem diplomats who resided japan. we were, however, never referred japanese authorities as jews. hat was one distinction the japanese did not make. anti-semitism of uring the war was with the publication in japanese of the protocolless of the elder -- elders of zion a forgery n literary first published in russia in jewish and eged a world plot to achieve domination. i noticed it is presence in a
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store. next to it was a stack of -- right next to the stack of a stack of books called history of the jewish people. straightforward historical ccount by a japanese biblical scholar. i stopped by the bookstore several times and was surprised to see that the history book was rapidly selling protocols didn't seem to be selling at all. because wet, whether were stateless, because my parents were musicians and of honest things, or because my parents had five sons, the japanese treated us kindly and with a show of great throughout the war. the soviet union did not declare on japan until august 9, 19 only six days before japan surrendered.
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interval, the rt japanese authorities scarcely had time to consider how to deal with stateless russians like ourselves. many around the world in world war ii the shapiros disturbing events. e shares many memories of war impact in edokko including his ecollection of sabotage at yokohama harbor. on our side of the warmed in mid november the battle of guadalcanal was under way japanese and american forces in the south pacific. yokohama home in harbor a major incident of that shook us ed all up and brought the war to our immediate attention. november 30, between 1:30 and
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while we were in school we heard a terrific explosion. another twice as strong immediately followed. everyone, students and teachers rushed up to the roof of our school building. near the igantic fire docks below. billows of smoke getting larger and larger. hree german ships docked at yokohama harbor will exploded nd -- had exploded and several buildings in the harbor's edge were on fire. dismissed we were from school at 3:00 p.m. we saw erman sailors arriving on shore. some blind, others had no legs. seriously m although injured could walk with help. by 4:00 p.m. the fires had begun out.e the air was thick with smoke and sulfur.nd smelled of somebody said the smell came from the exploded buildings
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ammunition wear warehouses. police not letting anyone go down to the harbor. bed my ht as we lay in brother joseph said he had heard rumors that the explosion had the result of sabotage. steamed out the day before. a close war drew to the u.s. drew closer to japan. by the iros were moved japanese government from yokohama to tokyo where the deadly xperienced bombing raids. >> the year 1945 began with a sound of air raid shortly ich woke me up after midnight. i turned on the radio to hear an that one enemy plane had been seen flying toward tokyo.
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my bed i saw the anti-aircraft guns flashes. birthday, january 5, was on a friday and i woke up to the sound of bombs falling all around us. i the time i was dressed could see flames. japanese fighters flying p to meet the b-29 super fortresses. i saw one go down in a blaze of even as anti-aircraft guns were blazing. suddenly i heard a loud noise saw a large metal object drop into the compound in front of our house. it turned out to be a shell from a 12 millimeter american cannon. a short time later two air raid ardens arrived and demanded that we turn the shell over to them. after a short argument we handed the officials. by the end of january, following
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intense raids, trams and subways were no longer and we stopped going to school altogether. >> in august of 1945, the u.s. nagasaki oshima and and soon after that the empower historic address to the japanese nation. the war was over. few days later isaac made a decision that would change his life. yokohama harbor to watch the arrival of the ictorious u.s. military and when he was in school in japan he studied english so he was the language. >> i watched the americans come ashore ashore, hundreds of them crammed into motor boats, steaming from the docks. to nothing about that moment was order narrinary. -- unreasonable and
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i could feel the excitement. i watched one motorized boat toward the dock and soon i i.'s faces.out the g. eufpl a few of them seemed to stare at i stared back at them. suddenly i was startled by a loud.closer and hi, there. i turned quickly. army officer in his late 20's will joined me on the embankment. captain kelly he said. with a broad smile. relative of yours. held out his hand. to ok it and waited for him continue. do you speak japanese? yes, sir. you can help me. deared a e machine school bus but i can't communicate with the driver. tell him where to go. >> isaac works at the u.s.
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a kwraoyear and n then the following year in 1946 american comfortable and his wife ask isaac's parents to boy to america. understanding the opportunity it they provide to their son said yes. he would go on to become a u.s. itizen, fight in the korean war, stand columbia university and pursue his successful career law.nternational his parents and several brothers later joined him in america found success., memoir more in his edokko: growing up a stateless foreigner in wartie japan and we hope that you will enjoy reading it. the meantime, he would love to discuss the story with you. question?ne have a we have a microphone here for you. diary c, did you keep a at the time or did your brother help you? how can you remember all of
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this? >> i did keep a diary during the war. it with my i think i sold it to him, actually. took it r the war i back from him. it stopped short of the end of war. in hindsighteveals and interest is that we were very simpympathetic with he allies and we wrote in our diaries with disregard for consequences that we hoped that allies would win the war. t is the one piece of evidence that i had as to which side we were on. ah, my grand daughter. >> hi. how long did it take you to write it, the book?
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>> oh, gosh! about two years. >> ok. a question. with all the members of the you the only one that secretly hoped that the allies would win the war? there family members that wanted the japanese to win? no, actually my two oldest and ers left tokyo in 1944 live with my arbin to grandfather because we had too many mouths to feed and they had from high school. there were 17 twins and moved to harbin. s far as others in the family, my brother, whom i shared my
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expressed the o same sympathies for the allies that i did. why?d i mean, you were born and brought up in japan. how come you sided with the allies? >> it is very simple. we were strongly anti-german because of the persecution of jews. we knew about that. nd so we certainly had no sympathy for the germans and didn't want them to win. and if the japanese will won, it -- had won it would have meant germans had won, too. were you aware of a larger jewish community in japan? -- use i know there is some my great uncle was briefly in war and had an in a jewish community it
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kobe kobei. were there any other jews around? yes, the largest jewish kobei.ty in japan was in hat was the major port for ships from germany. >> what about about where you were living? kobei was a good distance from tokyo. don't remember being there until after the war. >> what was your major language? grew up speaking russian the first five years of my life lived in china in harbin. learned no chinese to my regret. when i moved back to japan in 1936 i was f
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enrolled in a british school and learn english for the first time. i knew no english. mother came to school with me to interpret and until one day i said i don't want you with me any more. can follow. >> when were you aware of the jews had for the the second world war, of the holocaust? >> yes. >> when? >> we became aware of it rimarily through stories of refuse jaes coming from germany coming from germany to japan, from europe generally. them.ere was a stream of you may have heard of the consul lithuania lithuania. he gave hundreds of visas.
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honored in a cemetery in jerusalem. honorary e sort of jew. y father, who spoke english, served as an interpreter for came many refugees that and couldn't communicate at the ulate because they didn't know english. go to the ould consulate and help them apply for visas. literally hundreds of refugees until after pearl japan thankshrough and my father sfrtd them well as -- served them well interpreter. >> i apologize but we had one skipped overthat i and it is a very interesting story. isaac's while working with the u.s. military isaac witnessed the treaty of the peace
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between the u.s. and japan and in october of 1945 he was asked u.s. military leaders on a trip to witness the damage that had been done when atomic bomb was dropped on hiroshi hiroshima. >> i will read from the book. 1945, a y october 28, group of senior naval officers the been rses from never lens, the hospital ship to hiroshima to survey the damaged city. i cannot remember, join us.r departmeidn't there were all together 15 of us. a r-5-c a twin engine silver propeller plane. there is a picture in the book.
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8:35 in the morning and landed in hiroshima two later.and 50 minutes it was a cool day but i was a leather flight jacket ith a fur collar a few days earlier. i was also issued a full length it was more and than adequate it keep me warm. that an atomic detonated over hiroshima on august 6. at a height of 1,850 feet and of 4,000,000 people morningin the city that more than 75,000 had been instantly killed. the entire central ore of the city had been puzzlize pull pulverize.--
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but none of us was ready for the sight that greeted us after we off plane. what was once a thriving city a sea of e land, rubble. looking across the city from one end to the other we saw only two burned out buildings left including at the epicenter of the blast the building that has become a monument and symbol of nuclear air irst strike. for two hours we were speechless walking from one part of the rubble to another. to seeing accustomed glass fragments after raids, but i air couldn't find a single crack or rubble.iece in the picking up a bulb of grass that i realized that the intense heat generated by the
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turned all glass molden globs.old en making lone street car its way across town on the horizon. hundredsew pedestrians of yards away walking aimlessly whether must have been streets but which now led nowhere. walked alone and there were no children to be there was people felt still danger in the air and children shouldn't be allowed outside. it was a macabre scene that i forgotten. when we finally left, we flew in total silence struck dumb by our day's experience. thank you. questions? got the feeling ways
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especially in china and also in really didn't understand who jews were. anti-semitism t in either country. but i'm sure i don't really -- you feel about it? >> first of all, there was a ish community in china, japan.rger than arbin at the turn of the 19th century was a small town and was populated as a result of the latter part of the 19th century and in the century.t of the 20th a synagogue was built there which is still there. museum. i have been there. i was there in 2006. center for arbin ews of which i'm an honorary memb member. they maintained the history and
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maintained the cemetery which has been ruled outside the where my grandparents are buried. very large number of jews met jews are in japan the were fewer in number. hey started coming at the end of the 19th century. but you are absolutely right, serious no discrimination of any kind. the feeling of an extent it sm to the existed came from other oreigners who brought it with them from europe. can you talk about the japanese culture? o you remember the women wearing kimonos and were there
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very rural?s and >> we were very much embedded in because we ture lived for the most part in communities which were japanese not foreign. in e were foreign enclaves yokohama on the gulf, a series western style houses, all executives whoss were assigned to yokohama lived up there. were, where the schools the foreign schools. okohama international school, saint overcollege. girl's school.the and the more privileged forei lived up there. near the n the coast, beach. and there were only a half dozen lived in igners who that area.
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>> here you are jewish and there from reigners i assume germany. how would you interact with the that had nazi sympathies? >> that was very curious. the german government their population. hey were all subject to oversight by the germans. units tons had gestapo watch out for them. some of them.know my best ngly enough, friend when i was 10 years old who had been rman after his family go back to to germany from new york where his
9:44 am a and they were stuck in japan continue ey couldn't n the trans-siberian railway after the soviets declared war on germany. spent the war youears in japan instead of going back to and my friend who sat in front of me at school at st. and became my friend came ter a week in his hit er niform and was watched by the gestapo but his parents allowed a jewish friendly with boy. >> your parents? accepted him because he showed no signs of and they met his arents who were of catholic eligion from munich area and
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were quite openly anti-nazi. to their own peril. the sister of my friend has book called journey interrupted. you can find it on amazon. journey interrupted. which is a story of the family moved from new york to during thetuck there war. there were then interned after and went americans back to germany and eventually they found their way back to new and we resumed or friendship and my friend died ago. years still friendly with his sister. tell us about emperor hirohi hirohito? >> he was a controversial character. there was an attempt at a to tary coup before the war
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dislodge him. titulary head. japan during the war. then after the war thanks to carthy -- mcconsider they are's policy he rainfalled thrown. he considered it an asset while of kojo and times others went on. there is famous picture of hymn standing next to the general at embassy very short per errerror. he remained until his death and honor of entertaining him
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presidentk when i was of japan society and he came on n official visit and later on he invited my wife and myself to dinner party at the imperial palace. free of any persecution or intimidation is l his death and his son about it abdicate next year in of his son one of first in centuries. >> considering that there must have been a lot of censorship of the japanese government of what was going on in the war how aware were you of what was going war and when did you know that the japanese were losing?
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point are quite right to that out. there was very tough censorship during the war. we never will a radio or a telephone for that matter. learned, we learned from our neighbors, many of whom listened to os and foreign broadcasts. the newspapers were all censored the japanese defeats as the allies conquered more territory the pacific were minimized or ompletely excluded from newspaper accounts. we through the grapevine learned an awful lot and were well aware of japan's until the defeats final stages. especially after the beginning of the air raids when it was
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the americans will conqu islands, the ianna japanese will lost the battle of was progressing inawa, iwo jima. t was impossible to ignore the fact that the japanese were slowly being defeated, intensity y with the of air raids there just wasn't any question about it. and we were evacuated from the coast where we lived in yokohama 1944 and then the japanese government evacuated all the gners living on coastline because they were and so ting an invasion we were moved to tokyo courtesy government, ese which found us a house and paid for our move. they were quite decent about it. >> was that frightening? frightening,
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because with the intensity of he air raids in the fall of 1944 and spring of 1945, it uncertain whether we could survive. happen to japan. >> impleme want to know if you why did the japanese become allies with the germans politically? i have never quite understood that. > it is a long and complicated story. artly it is the japanese feeling of inferiority after world war i when they were with the british and the that they nd felt were not given equal treatment conferences and peace talks and so forth.
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is ly it was the military japan itself and he simple think that the military wi military had for the germans. winning battles in europe and then invaded the in the summer of 1941. looked up to. >> whatever happened to your mom and dad? america and to given jobs as classical musicians? >> yes. japan until in 1952 after the past treaty was signed.e treaty was my mother will a relative in california who was a musician
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were both nts musicians and wanted to come to continue their caree careers. in her 40's only and she no longer had the for five childr children. the only one of her sons who was my younger brother who was 6 years old when war ended and he eventually migrated with them to california in 1952. california in the 1950's an coterie of with famous bysicians made arthur rubenstein. a whole a who refugee lew of musicians who worked in
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.ollywood and los angeles t.s. stakoisky was the conductor of single again ngeles any. -- single again any. a culture that welcomed them and pursued their usical careers in los angeles until they both died. >> what instruments did they pl play? khe khelies and a conductor and my mother was a pianoiest. bill: what did you find solace in as a child. trauma music? find solace in i was in china in 1983 as a history nd i'm 63 and as to be told and they said
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there is no such thing is objectivity. in such you find solace a horrible situation? >> where did you find solace. >> oh, solace. >> after going through so much. oh, goodness. friends. with other hips childr children. of whom there were many foreigners like ourselves living our neighborhood and in school with us. spent our time when we were not in school with each ther, not so much with our parents. our parents lived their own separate lives and there was a greater distance between parents and children in those as you can attest for
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yourself. yes, darling. >> can you tell people about sneaking out to the movies and that was such a big thing for you? a lot of your childhood -- >> my father was very strict and forbidden from going to movies. do that secretly. time i remember being allowed to go to the 10th birthday y 1941 i was allowed seahawk with he errol flynn. >> any more questions? > what a fascinating history
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and didn't take place that long ago. >> 70 plus years. chris kelly and isaac isaac. sign ll stick around and copies for us. >> happy to. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] >> you are watching american on c-span >> stephen recker created the book "rare images of antieta - and the photographers who took them". and next he talks about how ecame interested in collecting photographs of the antietam teebelt field and shared them in his research. he also discusses what he the battlefield of antietam and aftermath from photographs. this took place at the


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